Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Gingerbread Man


A bit of an odd history here. Robert Altman had never done a straight thriller before and wanted to try it. The screenplay is credited to “Al Hayes,” which is John Grisham. Seems it was based on a novel he abandoned, and then sold as a screenplay. But he didn’t like Altman’s insertion of profanity, so the pseudonym. It got fairly good reviews from the critics, not so much from the audience. The studio took it from him when early test screenings were bad. They re-cut it, and Altman said take my name off of it, until it turned out the re-cut was testing even worse than the original. So they went with the original, and now we have an Altman film.

He has nothing to be ashamed of here, though nothing to be really proud of, either. It is a perfectly standard thriller, very little indication of that Altman touch at all except for some scenes of overlapping and sometimes indistinct dialogue. Kenneth Branagh is a successful criminal defense attorney in Savannah, gee ay, and he becomes involved with a woman (Embeth Davidtz) whose father (Robert Duvall) is a major-league weirdo. He lives in an old farmhouse with some minor-league weirdos, all looking rather elderly, bearded, disheveled, probably alcoholic. Just the sort you would encounter on skid row. My imagination fails as to what they all might be doing in that old house. But Ken and Em get him declared legally insane and he is locked up in an institution. Somehow his band of losers manage to break him out, and then all the trouble starts. The two people and Ken’s family are being stalked by unseen people in two old beater cars. A cat is hung. Pictures of his children are taken and sent to Ken, with their eyes blanked out. And then the kids are abducted …

Naturally, there are twists and turns, and it faked me out some, though I will say I had some suspicions from the beginning. It’s all adequately done and I had a good time, but there will be no need to see it again.